Autumnal Equinox

Migrating Black-necked Stilts

Another summer has slipped over its equinoctial belt—its pride hath gone before the fall.   And so it is for me, veteran of many celestial cycles.  Basted over the coals of another Arizona summer, I am, at the very least, well-seasoned by now.  Continue reading

Bats, Cuckoos, and Happiness

Granite Dome at sunset

After a day spent mostly at the computer screen, I need to stretch.  Granite Dells stretches me, pulls me irresistibly into the mazes of outcrops and canyons, especially appealing when thunderheads have finished their rumbling and are sailing away across the heavens, mission accomplished.

I head toward Granite Creek, its cottonwoods pulsing with the choruses of strident cicadas.  Though monsoon storms have been modest at best in this neighborhood, the weeds, native and otherwise, are dense and lush.  Fortunately, mosquito populations here are lower than last year, and as long as I keep moving, I avoid serious blood-letting.

There are signs here indicating that this is a restoration area, and the twenty-foot cottonwoods and shorter velvet ash and hackberry trees are evidence that recovery is occurring.  A developer had grand plans for this area, and he drained a small recreational lake that had been used by residents and tourists alike in the “good old days” of early Prescott.  He also cut out the willows and cottonwoods that framed the pond and leveled the whole works for his development.  There were plans for a bridge across Granite Creek where now there is a fair-weather ford—a  bridge that might have impeded Wood Ducks and Black-Hawks as they flew up and downstream searching for food.  With money pouring from his deep pockets and machines moving the earth with seeming impunity, he didn’t take one thing into account: his development was right next to the property of one of the Dells’ most colorful characters, Happy Heavenly Oasis (no, this is not a pseudonym).  Continue reading

Cuckoo!

In nature, every sound has meaning.

Stepping out of the house this morning to scatter a handful of bird seed for the local quail and other welcome guests, I heard an unexpected sound—a few series of sharp, somewhat hollow kowp calls that made my hair stand on end.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo!  As our house sits atop a dry jumble of granite boulders, one of the last birds I expected to get on my yard list was the stream- and thicket-loving cuckoo, but there it was.  Unmistakable if you know the sound.  And the calls were coming from appropriate habitat, the green ribbon of cottonwood, willow, and ash trees that follows Granite Creek a hundred yards or so away.  Continue reading